Genista Caterpillar on Baptisia
July 28, 2012
Photos by Debbie Roos, Agricultural Extension Agent.
The Genista caterpillar (Uresiphita reversalis) is a relatively new pest in North Carolina. It feeds on Baptisia, and others have reported damage on crape myrtle. The adult is a small brown moth.
I asked NCSU Entomologist Dr. David Stephan about its distribution and he said it occurs coast-to-coast across the southern half of the U.S., reaching as far north as Michigan and Wisconsin. He only started seeing it in NC a few years ago.
This is the first time I have seen this pest in Cooperative Extension’s Pollinator Paradise Garden in Pittsboro. I first noticed a few caterpillars in mid-July and didn’t think much of them. I often see caterpillars in the garden (it is a pollinator garden after all!) but they rarely do much damage. I went out of town for a week and when I returned the caterpillars had defoliated three mature Baptisia plants. I then started hand-picking them, concentrating on Baptisias in other beds where the infestation had just started. Another control option would be to spray Bt, an organically approved insecticide, but this will be most effective on small larvae.
I don’t expect to see this pest every year but from now on I will know to scout for it in the summer to try and prevent defoliation!
For more information and more photos: